Commentary Tracks Of The Damned: Mad Money

Commentary Tracks Of The Damned: Mad Money

Crimes:

— Making the daily robbery of loose cash from one of the country's most secure institutions—the Federal Reserve bank—look as simple your average smash-and-grab job

— Furthering Callie Khouri's descent from the feminist edge of her script for Thelma & Louise to directing ensemble fluff like this and Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood

— Allowing Katie Holmes to go Tom-Cruise-on-a-couch crazy with her bug-eyed conception of a curly-haired, free-spirited trailer-trash rocker

Defender: Director Callie Khouri

Tone of commentary: Gracious, a little bored, often defensive. At various times, she seems to anticipate the criticism that will be leveled at the movie, so she tries to cut it off at the pass. Because the film was inspired by a real heist at the Bank Of England, Khouri says, "When you hear critics go, 'It's highly implausible,' I would say, 'Yeah, you're right, it's so implausible… But wait, it actually happened. Okay, you're an idiot, not me." (Never mind that the implausibility comes from the script's ridiculous version of the crime.) And don't even get Khouri started on the "e" word that's dogged her since Thelma & Louise: "Here's a word I hate: empowerment. I always get a little testy when people talk about the movies I make in terms of empowerment. I'm trying to make something entertaining, and if people feel empowered by having a story they can relate to, then great. But is it my goal to go out and make women feel like they're strong, or recognize the obvious strength that every woman on this planet must have to make it? Nothing could be further from the truth." Ya-ya!

What went wrong: It took five years to make, the budget and time constraints were too constrictive, and securing Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah, and Katie Holmes for the lead roles was "one of the few breaks that we actually got." Unlike more delusional CTOTD defenders past, Khouri is refreshingly upfront about the movie's flaws: "There's never going to be a day when I look at this movie and don't see the deficiencies brought on by a lack of money and time. I could go through and point them all out, but it might take longer than the actual movie itself." She acknowledges that the heist "strains credulity for some people," and admits that officials at the real Federal Reserve were "tickled at the notion of something attempting a crime like this, because they knew it was absolutely impossible." Khouri also mentions some scenes that were cut from the script, like a monologue from Holmes about having diabetes when she was younger, and other bits of backstory. But the ones she describes don't exactly raise longings for the three-hour dream version of Mad Money.

Comments on the cast: Everyone's great! Ted Danson is a "national treasure" who "can make 'yes' or 'no' the two funniest words you've ever heard." Keaton is a "risk-taker," Latifah has the "ability to be real," and don't get Khouri started on Holmes, who "brought scrapbooks" filled with character details and "dances like a nut in every scene." Holmes had "extremely strong ideas," according to Khouri, including "the idea to make her hair super-curly." Apparently, there's nothing that primes an audience for wacky fun more than super-curly hair.

Inevitable dash of pretension: Khouri keeps floating the "very American" idea that "more is better," and that "we've all started to anesthetize ourselves with stuff." Her high-toned comments about the culture's "voracious appetite for consumption" would probably play better in a movie that isn't staked on the triumphant image of thieves showering themselves with money.

Commentary in a nutshell: On the big twist in the denouement: "Is that a good message? No, it's a terrible message. Live with it."

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